Lifesaving Chemical Escapes United Nations Ban

Washington, DC, December 13, 2000 – An international coalition of public health and advocacy groups applauded United Nations’ recent vote against erecting a global ban on the pesticide DDT.


“This decision is a great victory for public health,” said Dr. Don Roberts, spokesman for the Save Children From Malaria Campaign, of which the Competitive Enterprise Institute is a member. “It will help blunt the devastating re-emergence of killer diseases like malaria and should save the lives of millions of people in the next decade alone.”


The decision was made at the recently concluded United Nations convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Many of the delegates and observers to the convention arrived with the goal of enacting a global ban on 12 organic chemicals – most notably DDT, which is still used in limited amounts to control malaria and other vector-borne diseases in 23 countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Delegates to the POPs meeting added DDT to a list of restricted use chemicals, but voted against an immediate worldwide ban.

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According to the World Health Organization, which opposes a DDT ban, malaria affects some 500 million people each year and kills up to 2.5 million annually, mostly women and children. 


“The use of small amounts of DDT means the difference between life and death for thousands of people in the developing world every day,” said Richard Tren, chairman of Africa Fighting Malaria, a public health NGO based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and one of five member organizations in the Save Children From Malaria Campaign. “DDT’s targeted, small-scale use in fighting diseases such as malaria is essential until effective and affordable alternatives are found.  At the moment DDT is far more effective than many of the more expensive alternatives,” Tren added.


“Malaria’s human toll is especially high in the poorest areas of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where alternative means of prevention are often inaccessible and too expensive to use on a large scale,” said Dr. Roger Bate, chairman of the Save Children From Malaria Campaign. 


“Problems will arise from the restrictions the POPs treaty will erect for DDT use, but of far greater importance is that countries can continue to use DDT without fear of reprisals from western governments – at least official reprisals,” he continued.

The history of malaria control, and the vital role played by DDT in the developing world, is told in a new CEI study authored by Richard Tren and Roger Bate, When Politics Kills: Malaria and the DDT Story, available by clicking here.

For more information, please contact Richard Morrison, director of media relations for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, at [email protected] or 202-331-1010, ext. 266.